Five College Financial Aid Tips to Lower Your Costs
Facing the cost of college can be daunting. It’s even more intimidating when you consider all the scholarships, loans, forms, and grants you have to learn how to navigate. The good news is you’re not alone. Every incoming college student must learn how to apply for college financial aid. And thankfully, you have the help of your financial aid office to ease the burden of college costs.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here are five tips to tackle your college expenses and make the financial aid process as smooth as possible.
1. Start Now
Maybe you’re realizing that you haven’t even thought about college financial aid yet. Wherever you are, there’s no need to stress. It’s simply time to take the next step. If you don’t know where to begin or how to apply for financial aid for college, we’re here for you! You can start by visiting our financial aid page, filing your FAFSA, and contacting our financial aid staff.
Another practical way to cut down on costs and start now is to literally start college now. How? It’s quite simple. You don’t have to wait until you’re actually at college to knock out some of the prerequisite courses. Grace College’s Jump Start program allows you to earn dual credit for high school and college. And if you’re really ambitious — as a junior, you can enroll in the online College Launch program and graduate from high school with an associate degree in tow!
2. Be Selective about your Scholarships
You don’t have time to apply for every scholarship on and off the internet. That’s okay! The trick is to be selective about what you’re giving your time to. While you should apply for as many promising scholarships as you can, don’t waste your time on global submissions that 5,000 other students are filling out. Think small. Start with finding your community foundation, and essay contests will start to add up.
In addition to this, reach beyond scholarships. Look for grants and college competitions as well. Grace College’s Presidential Scholarship Days are just one example. Scholarship competitions are a wonderful opportunity to get to know your potential college, stay overnight in the dorms, and receive a scholarship based on an essay contest and interview.
As you select scholarships and competitions to apply for, it’s important to think about what your giftings are. If your accomplishments are best displayed in written form, find scholarships that enable you to highlight those. If you are an excellent communicator, try to find interview or speech opportunities.
3. Ask the College Financial Aid Staff for Resources
It might be intimidating to approach the financial aid office at a prospective college, but that is what they are there for! The financial aid staff wants to point you in the right direction. Whether it’s connecting you with the right college loans or providing you with scholarship and grant opportunities, you will find the support you need if you just reach out.
If you’re still unsure about how to apply for financial aid for college, we have a list of up-to-date forms and a step-by-step guide to the financial aid journey. According to the American Council on Education, there are millions of students who are eligible to receive financial aid but never do because they simply don’t fill out their FAFSA forms. So don’t become a statistic; file your FAFSA, and ask for help if you need it!
4. Be as Accurate as Possible
When you’re filing your FAFSA or any other financial aid form, make sure you double-check your data. Round numbers to the nearest dollar, read the helpful hints the form provides, and include all the parental information you can (even if you already live away from home). Make sure you split each parent’s income into their appropriate entries rather than lumping it all together on one parent. Pay attention to these simple details.
5. Research Accelerated Degree Options
No matter how good your college financial aid and scholarships might be, it’s hard to beat a 25% reduction in your college tuition, room, and board. This is made possible by accelerated bachelor degree options that allow you to graduate in three years instead of four. At Grace, students of nearly any major can take advantage of an accelerated bachelor’s degree and those wishing to pursue a graduate degree can obtain a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a total of four years. This is important to look into as you’re exploring your financial options for college because a single year can end up saving you thousands of dollars.
We understand that financial aid is confusing, and we’re here to help! If you have any questions, contact us today!